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Analysis

No, Washington Post, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is nothing like Sarah Palin

The new representative embraces science. Palin, not so much.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), knows how marginal tax rates work and now you can, too. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), knows how marginal tax rates work and now you can, too. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

The popular Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) was compared negatively to both Sarah Palin and Donald Trump in an op-ed published Tuesday in the Washington Post by conservative columnist Max Boot.

But there is simply no comparison between the occasional misstatements and inarftul language by progressives such as Ocasio-Cortez and the campaign of misinformation from people like Palin and Trump — with their ceaseless climate science denial being the most dangerous example.

In his column, Boot takes some comments Ocasio-Cortez made on 60 Minutes out of context, and then carries his argument to a ridiculous extreme, claiming “For both the far left and the far right, facts are an irksome ‘detail’ of scant importance.”

Boot asserts that “What makes Ocasio-Cortez’s errors especially troubling was her response when called out by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes for previous statements she’s made about how the government might be able to pay for some of her policy proposals.”

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Boot quotes her line, “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.” He then writes that her “response displayed a cavalier attitude toward the truth similar to that of President Trump — who is, to be sure, a far more energetic purveyor of falsehoods.”

But Boot left out what Ocasio-Cortez asserted next.

Cooper said “But being factually correct is important– ” And she immediately said:

“It’s absolutely important. And whenever I make a mistake. I say, ‘Okay, this was clumsy,’ and then I restate what my point was. But it’s — it’s not the same thing as — as the president lying about immigrants.”

Precisely. In sharp contrast, no matter how many times Trump is confronted with the fact or with corrections, he never changes his lies.

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Trump is not just a “far more energetic purveyor of falsehoods” but he also repeats long-debunked lies endlessly. The Washington Post’s own fact checker actually created a whole new rating for him, “the Bottomless Pinocchio,” which is “awarded to politicians who repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation” (emphasis added).

These must be serious lies “repeated at least 20 times.” The Post notes, “14 statements made by the president immediately qualify for the list.”

The need to create the Bottomless Pinocchio in response to the president’s statements debunks Boots claim that “For both the far left and the far right, facts are an irksome ‘detail’ of scant importance.”

Moreover, it’s not the “far right” that sees the entire body of climate science as “an irksome detail of scant importance.” It is the mainstream Republican Party and the U.S. conservative movement broadly that rejects the science. As New York Magazine put it in 2015, “Why Are Republicans the Only Climate-Science-Denying Party in the World?”

The entire Republican Party and conservative movement deserve a Bottomless Pinocchio for their campaign of disinformation against climate science.

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In contrast, if Ocasio-Cortez is “the far left,” then the far left has embraced a far more science-based approach to the climate crisis than any other part of the political spectrum.

For instance, the emerging details of the Green New Deal, advanced by Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives — which relies on strong action in the next decade — have the virtue of being consistent with the extreme urgency demanded by the latest climate science.

The GOP’s sweeping rejection of the facts, however, goes far beyond climate science to things like basic economics. In his recent column on Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal for a high marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman explained that Ocasio-Cortez “definitely knows more economics than almost everyone in the G.O.P. caucus, not least because she doesn’t ‘know’ things that aren’t true.”

In fact, in his recent book, The Corrosion of Conservatism, Boot himself admits, “Upon closer examination, it’s obvious that the whole history of modern conservatism is permeated with racism, extremism, conspiracy-mongering, ignorance, isolationism, and know-nothingism.”

Yet Boot’s op-ed attacking the freshman Democrat is headlined, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shouldn’t approach her facts the way Trump does,” and he tweeted, “Ocasio-Cortez reminds me of Sarah Palin, another talented young communicator who made a big splash in national politics before having her lack of knowledge painfully exposed.”

Since Boot is talking about the importance of facts, it’s worth noting that while Ocasio-Cortez turned 29 three months ago, Palin was 44 at the time she made her big splash in national politics when she was chosen in August 2008 by Sen John McCain (R-AZ) to be his vice presidential nominee.

Also, unlike Ocasio-Cortez, Palin was not a “talented” communicator. As Boot notes, Ocasio-Cortez has “a social-media black belt” and is capable of “skillful parries.” That’s how she exploded onto the national scene.

But Palin won national fame by being plucked from relative obscurity by McCain. The Alaska governor was such a disastrously bad communicator that Katie Couric told CNN years later that she still couldn’t believe how badly Palin bombed her 2008 NBC interview during the campaign.

Palin fumbled even softball questions like “what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this, to stay informed and to understand the world?” Palin infamously could not name a single one.

So, it’s an extreme stretch to call Palin a “talented young communicator” like Ocasio-Cortez.

But does this misleading claim mean Boot is approaching his facts the way Trump does? No. It does, however, make clear that all politicians (and pundits) are bound to make mistakes and speak inartfully from time to time — since they are expected to be an expert on every subject and all of their words are scrutinized to the nth degree.

Palin and Trump, however, are true know-nothings; they have supported birthers who pushed a conspiracy theory about where Obama was born and are purveyors of fake news whose embrace of the fossil fuel industry’s campaign of disinformation against climate science denial is just the worst instance. Indeed, Trump continues to reject the climate science from his own administration and insist the whole thing is a hoax.

Ocasio-Cortez herself was having none of the comparison, tweeting, “Naturally, the same week we kick-start a nat’l convo on marginal tax rates endorsed by Nobel-Prize winning economists, I’m being described as ‘vacuous’.”

She added, “Let’s refocus our energy and coverage to policies instead of personality.”